You’ve seen them judge the competition, battle for the title of All-Stars champion and compete in a friendly game with colleagues on After Hours, but there’s a lot you don’t know about the judges of Chopped. Here’s your chance to get to know the nine people behind the Chopping Block.
Maneet Chauhan is a regular judge on Chopped. Viewers may also remember her as a contestant on Season 3 of The Next Iron Chef. After 8 years leading Vermilion restaurant, Maneet started Indie Culinaire, an avant-garde culinary and hospitality company that services events around the country. Her cookbook, Flavors of My World, was recently released. What you may not know about Maneet is that she hates cooking with pineapple. Find out more about Maneet in her Q&A.
What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
Maneet Chauhan: I personally hate to work with pineapple, the reason being that that was the one ingredient that played a critical role in me (and all my predecessors) being eliminated on my season of The Next Iron Chef.
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
What was your most memorable meal? What? Where? Who? Details, please.
MC: My husband and I went to Venice, Italy, for our first-year anniversary, and spent a day on the Island of Burano. There we had lunch at the famed Trattoria al Gatto Nero da Ruggero — one of the most incredible meals of our lives. We had the freshest seafood, the most delicious risotto. It was a true homage to highlighting the beauty of the freshest ingredients, best olive oil, garlic and the secret ingredient in their cooking — salt from Trapani.
What’s your guilty-pleasure food?
MC: Vanilla ice cream, with lots of candied pecans and hot fudge.
Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?
What kitchen tool can you not live without?
MC: Spice grinder.
If you weren’t in food, what career would you have liked to have tried?
MC: Jewelry designer. I love my bling.
What’s your favorite “food city” to visit?
MC: Singapore. It’s an amazing melting pot of Asian food — Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Chinese — and has a perfect balance of delicious street food and some amazing upscale dining.
What’s your favorite late-night snack?
MC: Masala popcorn (popcorn with Indian spices).
What’s one must-have at your last supper?
MC: My mom’s flatbread with a big dollop of freshly home-churned butter, topped with her potato and fenugreek vegetables.
Who’s your favorite person to cook with?
MC: My husband, Vivek Deora. He is very meticulous about cooking, and slowly and lovingly makes his family recipes, handed down generations. The flowing wine also helps.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup or mustard? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
Coffee or tea? Tea
Burger or hot dog? Burger
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Soda or water? Water
Sprinkles or jimmies? Sprinkles